Photos and game reporting by Ethan Miller
Great players make plays. Great teams win games. The Garaway Pirates proved that adage when they hosted Barnesville in the Div. III tournament sectional title game.
Garaway, the Div. III East’s number-one seed, hosted number-seven-seed Barnesville in a showdown on The Hill in Sugarcreek on Friday, March 1.
It took a concerted second-half effort, but the Pirates went to work and wore down the Shamrocks to post an impressive 76-50 win that was far closer than the final tally might indicate.
Barnesville gave the Pirates fits for much of the evening, and in particular Garaway couldn’t find a way to stop high-scoring threat Luke Powell.
But as is the case most of the time, a lot of guys usually come out on top of one individual, and that was the case in this one.
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“We knew that they were going to come out and be physical,” Garaway head coach Terry Rowe said. “They are a very good team and have won 15 games for a reason. They have one of the best players we have gone up against all year long [in Luke Powell], and he made some tremendous shots.”
Ethan Roden took over the game early as he dominated the paint, sandwiching a trio of scores around a Corey Troyer drive that gave the Pirates the early 8-1 lead. Powell finally scored inside for Barnesville, but Austin Fearon’s triple and Roden’s fourth score inside pushed the Pirates’ lead to 13-3.
Barnesville responded. More specifically Tate Dowler sprang to life, scoring six points to help the Shamrocks creep back to within 15-13 before Troyer fired down the lane for a score late in the quarter to give Garaway a 17-13 edge through one quarter.
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Jared Kernen got the Shamrocks to within two on a lay-up to start the second quarter, but Fearon hit a trey and then scored inside while Barnesville got scores in the paint from Powell and Dowler to keep Garaway’s lead small at 22-19.
After Troyer hit on a drive, Powell scored two straight in the paint to draw the Shamrocks to within one at 24-23. A Fearon 3-pointer kept the Pirates on top, momentarily, but Powell hit a three-ball and scored inside, and Barnesville took its first lead at 28-27. Corey Troyer scored twice in the paint on drives, but Powell connected from deep not once but twice to give the upstart Shamrocks plenty of momentum going into the half leading 34-33.
The locker room message for the Pirates was simple.
“We just talked about staying composed,” Rowe said. “We got open shots every time down the floor, and we wanted to continue that.”
While the first half was a terrific battle, the second half showed why Garaway is such a dangerous team.
The rush to victory began with a Fearon triple, but Powell hit three of four free throws to give Barnesville a 38-37 edge. It was the last lead the Shamrocks would see. After Troyer scored on the move, Erik Miller, who had been quiet, canned a trey. The teams traded single free throws before Roden scored inside, and Austin Miller hit a lay-up for a 46-38 Pirates’ lead.
“I thought as the game went along we did a better job of positioning ourselves and not putting them on the foul line and making them make shots,” Rowe said. “We got enough stops in the third and fourth quarter and hit some shots. Then our guards were able to space the floor, and we shot foul shots very well in the fourth quarter.”
While the Pirates started the game 0-of-5 from the charity stripe, they ended with a 19-of-24 performance that helped put the game away.
Troyer and Austin Miller sandwiched scores around another Powell triple, and Garaway held a 50-41 lead heading into the final frame.
What a fourth quarter it was for the home team. Roden scored on a short jumper, and Erik Miller connected on an and-one to push the lead out to 55-41.
Not long into the fourth quarter, Roden earned his fifth foul, ushering in Austin Miller to the post. Miller said his job description was fairly straightforward.
“Don’t let them score and do my part,” Austin Miller said. “Board the ball and don’t let the big guy score inside. I just wanted to get stops.”
He did more than that, adding some scoring to the run that helped the Pirates pull away for the win.
Troyer’s lay-up, Braden Yoder’s score on a drive and Erik Miller’s trey allowed the Pirates to pull ahead 65-46. Fearon scored twice, Erik Miller worked his way free inside and Austin Miller added a bucket, and the rout was on.
“We rebounded the ball very well in the second half,” Rowe said of his Pirates. “I don’t think we turned the ball over very much either.”
Rowe added that the bench play was a critical part of the win with Austin Miller, Yoder and Brevan Raber giving the Pirates plenty of key minutes, Miller’s performance in the absence of Roden in most of the fourth quarter a big plus.
“Whether it is four minutes or 15 minutes, Austin is always ready to play,” Rowe said. “He came ready to play and made some big plays. He is always going to be in the right place. He is a heady basketball player who gave us some really good minutes, and our bench had to. Braden was good off the bench, and Brevan played solid defense. We were in foul trouble, but we were able to play through it.”
Powell played an incredible game, pouring in 31 points including four 3-pointers and nine free throws, while Dowler added 14 for the Shamrocks. Unfortunately that accounted for 90 percent of Barnesville’s scoring.
Meanwhile, the Pirates were happy to let a bunch of guys get involved in the scoring fun. Troyer led the way with 19 points, Roden tallied 17 points, Erik Miller scored 15 and Fearon added 13. Yoder scored seven, going 7-of-8 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter, while Austin Miller added five points.